June 6, 2013




Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might have.

Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487



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State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707


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Supporting our neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and your family are listed below. 


Downtown Dining Week
Date: Now through Thurs., June 13

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Take advantage of this eight-day smorgasbord highlighting over 40 destination eateries with prix-fixe menus at $10 for lunch and $20 or $30 for dinner. Reservations are strongly encouraged. CLICK HERE for more information, including a list of participating restaurants and their menus.



Chill on the Hill
Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Location: Bay View

Description: Stop by this local music concert series on Tuesday nights this summer at Humboldt Park. Opening acts start at 6 p.m. with main acts running from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The Bay View Neighborhood Association operates the concert series in partnership with the Milwaukee County Parks, with the support of numerous local sponsors, including area restaurants, vendors, and organizations. CLICK HERE to view the poster for this event, which contains the summer music line-up.

Humboldt Park (MAP)
3000 S. Howell Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207


Jazz in the Park
Date: Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Jazz in the Park is an outdoor, free, summer music series featuring a line-up of jazz, big band, funk, R&B, reggae, blues, and more. Performers come from across town or across the country. Music starts at 6 p.m., but stop by early for Jazz in the Park Happy Hour and get great drink specials. All proceeds from sales help offset the high costs of production and ensure continued success of the summer festival. CLICK HERE for more information.

Cathedral Square Park (MAP)
520 E. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202



Date: Fri., June 7 through Sun., June 9

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Attend this annual festival that was founded in 1988 by the LGBT community. Every year, PrideFest attracts thousands of people and families, both gay and straight. With permanent stages, food buildings, vendor pavilions, and support from Milwaukee World Festivals, PrideFest kicks-off Milwaukee's festival season. Admission is $16 for a single-day ticket at the gate or $13 online. A weekend pass is $30. CLICK HERE for more information.

Henry Maier Festival Park (MAP)
200 N. Harbor Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202



Locust Street Festival

Date: Sun., June 9 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Join our neighbors at the Locust Street Festival in Riverwest for its 37th year. There will be music and dancing in the street with over 30 bands on six outdoor stages, over 100 unique vendors, a scrabble tournament, and the famous 1.8-mile beer run/walk. Admission is free. The festival will be held at Locust Street between Holton Street and Humboldt Boulevard. CLICK HERE for more information.



Flag Day
Date: Fri., June 14 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee

Description: As a part of their continued commitment to honor our veterans for their heroic service, the Milwaukee Center for the Performing Arts is hosting their 3rd annual Flag Day Celebration. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Join in this very special tribute to the men and women of our military. CLICK HERE for more information.


Peck Pavilion (MAP)

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

929 N. Water Street Milwaukee, WI 53202


Polish Fest
Date: Fri., June 14 through Sun., June 16
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Do not miss America's largest Polish festival as Milwaukee's Polish Fest returns to the Summerfest grounds. This three-day festival features cultural performances, authentic Polish food, vodka tastings, and much more. Admission is $12 for adults and $10 for seniors at the gate. Adults that purchase tickets in advance can also get in for $10. Children 15 and younger are free. As always, there are plenty of ways to save some money when stopping by, including 50 cent Friday and an option to donate three non-perishable food items to Hunger Task Force for free admission on Saturday. CLICK HERE or call (414) 273-3378 for more information.

Henry Maier Festival Park (MAP)
200 N. Harbor Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202


Juneteenth Day

Date: Wed., June 19 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Juneteenth Day is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the United States and has been a Milwaukee festival since the 1970s. A parade starts off the festivities that include kids games, exhibits, soul food, music, and much more. Local African dance groups and musical groups will be participating in this celebration. Admission is free. This event is located on King Drive between Burleigh and Center.


Dear Friend,


This week, Republicans caused catastrophic damage to our state in one fell swoop by expanding vouchers statewide, rejecting federal health care dollars, and pushing through anti-women legislation. Continue reading for more information on these and other important community issues. 


Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7



Republicans Expand Vouchers Statewide

Our worst fears came true this week when legislative Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) voted unanimously in the middle of the night to approve statewide voucher expansion and increase property taxes. Those of us residing in Milwaukee and Racine counties are already familiar with the damage our children, property taxes, and community suffer as a result of expanding unaccountable voucher schools. Over the past 20 years, we have spent $1.5 billion on a voucher experiment that has failed the students of Milwaukee and Racine. In fact, study after study has confirmed that voucher school students fare no better and often worse than their public school counterparts. Unfortunately, rather than learning from the mistakes of Milwaukee and Racine's voucher programs, Republicans have instead decided to take the rest of the state down with this sinking ship.


Budget Expands Vouchers Statewide and Much More

The education budget, was taken up at 1 a.m. on Wednesday, and passed in JFC along party lines with a vote of 12-4. The JFC version that passed is even more extreme than Governor Walker's voucher proposal, as it expands the voucher program to all 424 school districts, while the governor's would have only expanded it to nine new school districts. Further, while the program will be capped at 500 students in the 2013-14 school year and 1,000 students in the 2014-15 school year, Wisconsinites are smart enough to see through this arbitrary limit. This cap is clearly temporary and will likely be increased with future legislation and through budgets down the road.


This is not the only startling voucher-related proposal that made its way into the Republican budget. They also approved an astronomical increase of as much as $1,414 in additional per pupil spending for students in the voucher program. Meanwhile, our local public schools will only receive an additional $150 per pupil annually, which is not nearly enough to make up for the historic $1.6 billion in cuts contained in the 2011-2013 Republican budget. As a result, our public schools will continue to be institutions where teachers are tasked with managing 30, 35, or 40 kids in one class, where the art rooms are always dark, where the textbooks are out-of-date and falling apart, and where they keep a piano in the cafeteria because the part-time music teacher no longer has a classroom.


Unfortunately, while the voucher program will now be receiving more taxpayer dollars, it will not see an increase in accountability or transparency measures. Democratic JFC members introduced the following amendments to increase accountability and transparency, all of which were rejected by Republican committee members:

  • DPI Report Card System--Require voucher schools to provide the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) with needed data

  • Reading Assessment--Require all schools receiving taxpayer dollars, including voucher schools, to administer the same reading assessment test to better compare students

  • Teacher Licensure--Require all teachers in a voucher school to be licensed by DPI

  • Background Checks--Require all voucher schools to conduct background checks on all staff and prohibit a private school in the voucher program from employing an individual convicted of certain class felonies, such as sex offenses specified in Wis Stats 115.31

  • Open Records Law--Require that voucher schools are subject to Wisconsin's Open Records Law

  • Special Education Staff--Require voucher schools to employ special education teachers or therapists if pupils needing such services attend the voucher school

  • Corporal Punishment--Require that current laws governing corporal punishment in public schools apply to voucher schools

  • Graduation Credits and Standards--Require voucher schools to conform with graduation requirements that apply to public schools

  • Due Process Procedure for Expulsion--Require a due process procedure, like public schools use, when determining expulsion at a voucher school

Republicans also pounced on the opportunity to ensure that if our public schools get dollars, so do unaccountable voucher schools. Their adopted proposal specifies that starting in the next state budget, increases for public schools and voucher schools will be linked. Thus, if one receives a $100-per-student increase, the other would as well.


Further, as our public school students and their parents continue to be penalized by having to support two separate and unequal school districts, the parents of private school students will be rewarded in this budget with a tax break totaling $30 million in the 2014-2015 school year for an annual per student deduction of up to $10,000. This provision clearly seeks to further accelerate the privatization of our K-12 schools.


Study After Study Confirms Voucher Failure
Last week, yet another study was released factually proving that voucher students fare no better and often worse than their public school counterparts. The study, released by the American Educational Research Journal and the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, has conclusions that are nothing short of shocking. Below are the findings:

  • Students leaving voucher schools are the same children the program was designed to help. While the voucher program was created to give poorer, low-achieving students the opportunity for a better education, most of the children leaving voucher schools and returning to public schools are these poorer, low-achieving students. Such data reinforces that the voucher program is failing the very kids it was supposed to help.

  • Most students who transfer from the voucher program back into public schools realize significant achievement gains after doing so. Such achievement growth is even more significant for low-performing students. This statistic highlights that students who return to MPS truly do better once they are back in public school.

  • Voucher schools are less likely to identify and assist students who require special education. They are also less likely to hold back failing students, a decision that denies struggling kids their right to a quality education and decreases their chances of educational success.

  • Parental dissatisfaction was the most common reason cited by parents for students leaving the voucher program. Next in line was inadequate handling of special needs students. Such results verify that voucher schools do not always live up to the hype they have created and are frequently found to be a worse option for our children than traditional public schools.

Click here to access the voucher study mentioned.


In addition to this study, data recently collected by DPI shows a snapshot of just how voucher school students are performing compared to their public school counterparts. This data analyzes how all voucher and public school students in 4th, 8th and 10th grade performed in reading, math, and science during the 2010-2011 school year. According to the data, Milwaukee Public School students outperformed voucher students in eight out of nine categories.

Voucher Schools Raise Property Taxes
In 2010, state law compelled Milwaukee Public Schools to levy over $50 million in taxes to subsidize the private and religious schools making up the unaccountable voucher program, which amounts to 17% of the total Milwaukee Public Schools tax levy. Due to policy changes in the last Republican budget, the cost of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) rose significantly, exceeding the state's official 2012 estimate and increasing the financial responsibility of taxpayers to 22.6% of the total Milwaukee Public Schools tax levy.

In truth, Milwaukee taxpayers are now being billed for both the largest school district in the state, Milwaukee Public Schools, AND the fourth largest, which is what the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program has grown to be with 22,400 students. The tax levy for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program already exceeds the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District by nearly $10 million and is expected to exceed Milwaukee Area Technical College's in the next few years. With the expansion of vouchers statewide this is a consequence that will now be endured by all Wisconsin communities. While my Milwaukee colleagues and I were able to successfully achieve some transparency by providing separate cost information for MPS and MPCP schools on Milwaukee property tax bills, such transparency does not exist in the other 423 school districts.


It is important to note that there are private schools in our community that provide a positive educational experience to families interested in receiving a faith-based education. Unfortunately, it is impossible to weed out the bad from the good without the necessary transparency measures in place. As it stands, the voucher program remains unaccountable. Our children and Wisconsin's property taxpayers cannot afford to continue to support the bad, unaccountable institutions that have failed our children and taken advantage of the voucher program. If we continue down this path, it is not only Wisconsin's future workers that will suffer, but also our state. Our children's success or failure dictates whether we succeed or fail.


Paying More to Insure Less

Vouchers was not the only hot-button issue up for debate during the late night Joint Finance Committee (JFC) executive session as health care also came before the committee. In a shocking vote, Republican JFC members voted against common sense by increasing spending to insure fewer working Wisconsinites. With their vote, JFC members rejected federal dollars that would have provided more Wisconsinites with life-saving health care coverage.



Click here or on the video above to watch the final Joint Finance Committee executive session on WisconsinEye.


The Affordable Care Act offers states the option of extending coverage of our health safety net programs, like BadgerCare. The federal government picks up 100% of the cost for the first three years and no less than 90% every year thereafter. It defies logic that Republicans would choose to reject the opportunity to expand health care coverage to nearly 85,000 more Wisconsinites, save the state $119 million, and create approximately 10,500 new jobs for a state that is lagging behind the rest of the nation.


Republicans attempted to disguise the issue by saying that Wisconsinites in need could simply buy private coverage in the exchanges, but failed to note that their plan does not make that insurance affordable for them. For example, a family of two making between $15,510 and $20,628 annually would be required to pay up to $4,000 a year out-of-pocket, plus premiums. Families unable to make that payment will be left uninsured and using emergency rooms with the costs shifted on to taxpayers.


In addition to rejecting federal dollars, we also saw Republicans throw $73 million in taxpayer dollars to hospitals (who supported taking federal dollars for BadgerCare) to cover increased costs associated with those who will no longer be insured under the Republican proposal. This is essentially a $73 million admission that their refusal to accept federal funding to strengthen BadgerCare is going to result in thousands of Wisconsin residents being forced to rely on hospital emergency rooms rather than a primary care provider for health services. As a result, Wisconsin taxpayers will now not only be responsible to pay for other states to take advantage of available health care dollars, but we will also have to pay an additional $73 million. No matter how you do the math, it is immoral to pay more to insure fewer people.


Anti-Women Bills Reach the Senate

It appears legislative Republicans did not learn from their follies last session, given that they have reignited the war on women with the introduction of three anti-women laws. Continue reading for more information about these proposals, which received a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services this Wednesday.


Restricting Birth Control Coverage

Women have long faced discrimination when it comes to health insurance coverage. Over the years, insurance companies in Wisconsin have been required to cover basic women's health care like mammograms, maternity care and, in 2009, birth control. In addition, the Affordable Care Act put in place federal protections to ensure that all women had access to preventative services under their health plan--including birth control. Organizations from the National Institute of Medicine to the World Health Organization to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists tell us that access to birth control is the single greatest investment in women's health that a community can make.


Despite the clear evidence of positive effects birth control has on our community, Senator Glenn Grothman has introduced Senate Bill 202, legislation that would allow religious employers to discriminate against women by denying them affordable access to birth control. The proposal is illogical given that a fall 2012 study released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) demonstrated that access to no co-pay birth control coverage leads to significantly lower unintended pregnancy and abortion rates.


This proposal will not affect a small minority of women. In fact, another CDC study released this February found that virtually all women of reproductive age between 2006 and 2010 who had ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method at some point in their lifetime (99%, or 53 million women aged 15 to 44). In addition, birth control is not only a valuable family planning tool, but it also has many other medical benefits, According to the Guttmacher Institute, 58% of women use birth control for noncontraceptive health care reasons, which include:

  • Alleviating cramps and menstrual pain, which can sometimes be debilitating

  • Regulating the menstrual cycle

  • Preventing anemia, which can lead to dizziness, fatigue, and headaches

  • Helping in treatment of endometriosis, which often leads to infertility if untreated

  • Treating polycistic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which if left untreated can lead to weight gain, hair loss, depression, and infertility

Limiting access to birth control for these women may not only make it impossible for them to have children when they decide to expand their families, but also prevent them from being productive members of the workforce. Debilitating cramps, painful migraines, extreme exhaustion, and unpredictable menstrual cycles can cause women to miss work, produce poorer quality work, or be admitted to the hospital. With extremism blocking access to health care treatments, such health issues could be costly to employers, workers, and taxpayers alike.


Intruding into the Doctor-Patient Relationship

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services also took up Senate Bill 201 and Senate Bill 206, bills that infringe on the private relationship between a woman and her physician. These proposals aim to increase barriers on women interested in all family planning options through mandates related to ultrasounds.


Government interference in matters of family planning, which are intrinsically private and personal, is unacceptable. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, women have been granted a constitutional right to privacy, as well as the authority to make decisions related to their own body. To wage a legislative war on women by attacking this fundamental freedom is an insult to women across Wisconsin.



Ask Chris

I often have neighbors contact me looking for my perspective on various local and state issues. I very much appreciate our neighbors' questions and want to dedicate a portion of my newsletter to common questions that I hear to maintain an open dialogue. Please continue reading for this week's question.

Q: Is the Republican tax plan that was passed by the Joint Finance Committee one that would benefit the wealthy, or is it geared to favor the average Wisconsinite, like me?

A: Thank you for the thoughtful question. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau looked into this tax plan further to see just who would benefit and to what extent. According to their analysis, which has also been widely reported in the media, more than 54% of the proposed tax break would go to taxpayers making more than $100,000 a year. Therefore, unlike those making six-figure salaries, the average Wisconsin family will not see the same benefits.

For example, under this tax plan, the average married couple in Wisconsin with an adjusted gross income between $50,000 and $60,000 would receive a tax break of roughly 29 cents each day during the the 2014 tax year. On the other hand, married taxpayers making more than $300,000 a year would receive an average tax break of $1,524 over the same time frame. The numbers don't lie. It is clear that this tax plan is meant to unfairly benefit the uber-wealthy over average Wisconsinites.

There is also another fundamental question at the heart of this proposal: What are we giving up to achieve this tax break? The answer to this is pretty simple. This Republican tax plan was built on the backs of our children. In the last budget, general school aids were cut by $793 million. Instead of restoring these record cuts, Republicans have chosen to give $651 million of these funds away away in tax breaks overwhelmingly for the wealthy.

Expanding the unsuccessful policies of last session is not the cure for Wisconsin's lagging job creation, falling wages, and growing skills gap. We must take a balanced approach to ensure our schools have the necessary tools to provide future generations of Wisconsin workers with the necessary skills to compete in a 21st century economy. Should we fail to do this, it will be nearly impossible to get Wisconsin back on track with where the rest of the country is at in terms of job growth rather than lagging at 45th in job creation and 50th in short-term job growth.



Did You Know...?

You may be aware of the importance of getting the necessary vitamin D to ensure better health. But did you know that it was UW-Madison Biochemistry Professor Harry Steenbock who discovered a way to increase the vitamin D content in foods?


While working in his UW-Madison lab in late 1923, Steenbock discovered that he could increase the vitamin D content of foods by irradiating them with ultraviolet light. This important discovery virtually eliminated rickets, a crippling bone disease.


To ensure sufficient vitamin D levels, make sure that, in addition to eating vitamin D-rich foods, you are also getting frequent short exposure to the sun totally 15-30 minutes two to four times a week.



It is CPR Awareness Week

National CPR Awareness Week is June 1-7 and highlights that learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation can save lives. The American Heart Association is calling on all Americans to learn how to use Hands-Only CPR, which is CPR without mouth-to-mouth breaths. Conventional CPR can more than double or triple a person's chance of survival, and Hands-Only CPR has been shown to be just as effective.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death, and occurs when the heart's electrical system malfunctions and causes the heart to suddenly stop beating. Nearly 400,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States, with 80 percent happening in private or residential settings. Unfortunately, 70 percent of Americans feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they do not know how to administer CPR or they are afraid of hurting the victim.

Hands-Only CPR contains two easy steps. First, call 9-1-1. Second, push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the disco song "Stayin' Alive." Knowing these simple steps can mean all the difference. Learning CPR is a simple way to become equipped to save lives in critical situations.



Click here or on the video above to visit the American Heart Association's Web site to watch a 60-second demo video or find a CPR class near you.


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